File picture. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren).
File picture. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren).

NGOs warn political parties not to use Covid-19 vaccine roll-out to get votes

By Xolile Bhengu Time of article published Sep 7, 2021

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DURBAN – Dr Peter Benjamin, executive director of HealthEnabled, said the next eight weeks would be crucial to avoid devastating effects of the fourth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Benjamin said the government needed to vaccinate millions of people urgently to avoid a catastrophic fourth wave of the pandemic in South Africa.

He added that competing parties and their agendas could see vaccination becoming a political issue.

“We don’t want to see the issue of vaccinating becoming a political football to swing votes either way. We call on leaders of all political parties in SA to agree that the vaccination roll-out is off the political agenda.

“No party should campaign against vaccination. All political parties must demonstrate their responsibility, show they wish to protect all South Africans and that they understand science.

“We are not saying they should be friends, but we request that they refrain from using vaccination as a campaign tool,” said Benjamin.

Pauline Maketa, from the Community Constituency Front – the community sectors of SA National Aids Council and Nedlac –said the only intervention that could reduce the deadliness of the fourth wave would be to have a large percentage of the population vaccinated against Covid-19.

Maketa said this is why political parties as they campaigned needed to be careful in their approach. “We don’t want to see the issue of vaccination used as a tool to garner votes or to be linked to any political party.

Speaking to The Mercury she said all parties should focus on the overarching message of encouraging people to vaccinate for Covid-19.

“The last thing we need is to have rapid brakes being put on the vaccine roll-out programme. We work with the community and we know what they are being told or what they are seeing.

Maketa said: “We already have a big challenge of misinformation that is causing vaccine hesitancy. First it was the messaging of people being injected with magnets and now that has escalated to false information on threats to fertility and pregnant women.

“The youth are very eager to vaccinate, hence it is going to be so important for all stakeholders to keep on debunking the false narrative in the communities.”

She added that stakeholders who work with communities would be lobbying for government at a national and local level to utilise television, community forums, and community radio especially in rural arrears to reach people that needed to be encouraged to vaccinate most.

THE MERCURY

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